Deepen your understanding of Reworking the Western Diet with these carefully crafted educational exercises that let you get the most out of this TED Studies subject.

Activity 1

There's not one universally accepted definition of "sustainable consumption." Based on what you've learned in Reworking the Western Diet, how would you define the term? Which of the TED speakers might be most likely to agree with you?

Activity 2

During the last two decades there's been a groundswell of public interest in the history, politics and sociology of food, propelled by dozens of popular books, films, blogs and other media. Continue the conversation we've begun in this course by organizing your own film festival or book club focused on food. Explore whether local environmental groups, healthcare providers, garden clubs, restaurants or educational organizations like the Cooperative Extension would be interested in hosting or co-sponsoring the event.

Create a playlist of books or movies from among the ones suggested in this TED Study, and/or incorporate others you discover through your own research. Think about how to focus your collection (family farms? GMOs? sustainable seafood? etc.) and how you can order the playlist so that there's a logical and thought-provoking progression. Develop discussion questions and activities based on each of the books or films.

Activity 3

Sustainability is an appealing concept to many consumers; food companies often find that products marketed as "sustainable" are more profitable. Consequently, consumers encounter all kinds of related labeling and advertising when they're shopping for food. These include claims that food items are locally-grown, organic, natural, free range, cage free, grass fed, GMO-free, responsibly raised, fair trade, free of antibiotics, sustainably harvested, from farmer-owned collectives, and more. More often than not, use of these terms isn't regulated, so they've come to represent a wide variety of production and processing conditions.

Visit your local grocery store and look for these statements (or others related to sustainability). Choose one and try to find a dozen products that make that claim. For each product, see if the company's provided any additional information on the packaging (e.g., what makes the product 'natural'). How many of the products supply such information, and how similar are the explanations? Which products best exemplify sustainability as you've defined it in #1, above?

Activity 4

Several of the speakers in Reworking the Western Diet express concern about the future of the world's food supply and ask how we're going to feed a population projected to reach nine billion by 2050. Although science suggests their concerns are well-founded, anxiety about the future of food isn't something new — it's a topic that has inspired inventors, engineers, doomsday prognosticators, film makers and fiction writers alike.

In his book Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food, Warren Belasco investigates the hopes and fears that different generations have expressed about the food supply, through world's fairs, restaurant architecture, food advertising, amusement parks, movies and more (for example, the sci-fi cult classic Soylent Green).

Read Belasco's book and then write your own futuristic fiction about the food system five or ten decades from now. Which of the innovations described in the TEDTalks might be commonplace? Industrial-scale vertical farming? Home aquaponics? In-vitro meat? Open-source agriculture? What's happened to the Western diet, and how sustainable is its successor?

Relevant talks